The world held its breath in 2014, when the men and women of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) battled the scourge of ISIS in Kobane, Syria. In autumn 2014, the SDF began winning its first battles against the ISIS militants, backed by US air power, demonstrating for the world that the horrific power of ISIS was not infinite. This represented a turning point in the ISIS advance through Syria, the battle for the soul of the Middle East.

On November 1, 2020, people gathered in cities all over the world commemorated that historic battle. They met in Rome, Florence, Athens, Barcelona, Berlin, Vienna, Switzerland, Dresden, Stockholm, Sydney, Catalonia, Portugal, Washington DC, and many other cities and towns in order to remember the heroic resistance of Kobane.

In 2014, the people of North and East Syria fought to defend their homeland, but they also fought for an idea: democracy. The ISIS militants fought for an authoritarian extremism that amounts to a brutal monarchy. SDF soldiers, in contrast, fought for a model that promises equality, pluralism, and dignity for all. 

Today, the struggle for true democracy continues. Kobane is now under the governance of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES). The AANES seeks to bring democracy to Syria and the Middle East. Through a series of local councils and committees, through equality of ethnicities, genders, races, and religions, through accountability and transparency in governance, and through respect and dignity for all, the AANES governs its region in the true spirit of democracy.

The AANES social contract or constitution reads, “By our free will, we declare this Contract to achieve justice, freedom and democracy in accordance with the principles of ecological balance and equality, without discrimination based on race, religion, belief or gender. The goal of this Contract is to enable the political and moral fabric of the democratic society to achieve its functions, which are mutual understanding, coexistence within pluralism, respect people’s rights for self-determination, the rights of women and children, self-protection and defense, and respect for freedom of religion and belief.”

This inspiring bid for democratic governance in the Middle East deserves the recognition and support of all who dream of democracy. The battle for the soul of the Middle East may have entered its current phase in Kobane in 2014, but it continues every day in the fight to protect North and East Syria.